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RealNetworks, Apple ink Web streaming deal

In a surprise move, the Web media streaming giant unveils a licensing agreement with the PC maker, the first time the two companies have teamed on streaming.

NEW YORK--In a surprise move, Web media streaming giant RealNetworks today unveiled a licensing agreement with Apple Computer, the first time the two companies have teamed on streaming.

Rob Glaser During a morning keynote address at the Streaming Media East conference, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser announced along with Steve Jobs--who tuned in via satellite--that the company will license Apple's QuickTime streaming format on its RealServer 8 product. Content providers that use RealServer will be able to stream their media offerings using QuickTime in RealNetworks' formats.

"The No. 1 and No. 2 players are starting to collaborate," Jobs said to the audience.

He said RealNetworks and Apple's QuickTime are the top two Web-streaming formats accessed by consumers.

The deal with RealNetworks will further extend QuickTime's distribution from several server technologies, Jobs said.

"We want QuickTime everywhere, and the more servers that it runs on, the better," he added.

The licensing agreement marks the first time RealNetworks and Apple have united their Web-streaming efforts. QuickTime has been regarded as something of a missed opportunity for Apple given the rise of other streaming media formats, such as RealNetworks, which have eclipsed QuickTime in market share.

steve jobs QuickTime and RealNetworks do have one common thread in their respective histories: Both have been targeted by Microsoft.

Apple executives alleged during testimony in the Microsoft antitrust trial that the software giant played hardball by trying to prevent it from producing a Windows version of QuickTime.

Meanwhile, RealNetworks is embroiled in a bitter battle of market share against Microsoft's Windows Media format. Although RealNetworks says it has a dominant lead in downloads, other studies have shown that the gap between the two services is closing.

RealNetworks also said today that it will integrate a secure streaming system into RealServer. This will allow broadcasters to charge for programming on the Web.

Swimming with sharks RealNetworks recently unveiled RealSystem 8, its media package that includes RealServer and RealPlayer. RealServer allows Web broadcasters to stream content to online consumers.

In addition to the Apple announcement, Glaser sounded off on several issues, including his opinions on intellectual property protection in the so-called Internet Age.

Glaser said enforcing copyrights can sometimes turn consumers off to a product and can decrease sales. Now the industry needs to do more to create a "middle ground" on this issue, he said.

"I'm highly confident of a middle ground...(that protects) the different intellectual property rights and offers a great consumer experience," Glaser said. "But I think we're doing it in a slower way than we should as an industry."

Glaser's comments come after a major settlement between music Web site MP3.com and two major record labels. MP3.com last week entered into separate licensing agreements with Warner Music and BMG Entertainment that will allow MP3.com to use their respective music libraries in its My.MP3.com service.